State weathermen, S&T workers protest removal of benefits under SSL bill
MANILA, Philippines — About 5,000 science and technology (S&T) workers in government are up in arms against the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL), saying they stand to lose under a law that ironically grants a salary increase to all government workers.
State weathermen plan protest actions starting Monday, asking lawmakers to revise the proposed law so as not to scrap the benefits provided under Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta for S&T personnel in government.
“If they pass the SSL as it is, we will lose our benefits. They are the only thing we live on. We will really be in the losing end,” said Ramon Agustin, president of the 900-strong Philippine Weathermen Employees Association (PWEA).
PWEA represents the technical and non-technical personnel of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
Starting Monday, PAGASA employees will wear black armbands and hold protest actions during their flag ceremony and break time.
Agustin said the benefits that rank-and-file PAGASA employees would lose under the SSL would be bigger than the salary increases they would get under SSL over a four-year period.
The Magna Carta signed in 1997 grants S&T personnel in government additional monthly benefits such as hazard allowance, subsistence allowance and longevity pay to discourage them from leaving for higher-paying jobs abroad.
“Only top officials will benefit from the SSL,” Agustin said.
The latest SSL sets a salary increase for all government workers in four tranches from 2016 to 2019 as well as benefits that include a 14th month pay, a mid-year bonus, and an enhanced performance-based bonus.
The Senate and House of Representatives will come up with a final version during a bicameral conference startingWednesday.
In a statement, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said 4,850 or 88 per cent of its 5,485 workforce would not get any real salary hike under the SSL.
It said that in the first year of implementation, 99 per cent of its personnel would suffer pay cuts.
The United DOST Employees Association “strongly opposed” both versions of the Senate and the House for being disadvantageous to S&T personnel.
“The proposed increase in salary in the SSL will amount to nothing if they take away our Magna Carta benefits,” said Joy Lazcano, president of the Science and Technology Information Institute Employees Association.
He said a Salary Grade 13 worker would only get a P3,700-increase but would lose more than P5,000 in Magna Carta benefits.
State weathermen also held protest actions in 2013 to protest the non-payment of their longevity and hazard allowance, prompting Malacañang to intervene and release funds.
Before 2014, the Magna Carta benefits were not included in the annual budget but were sourced from savings generated by DOST agencies. SFM
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